The scandal surrounding the abduction in 2003 of Chris Ngige, the then governor of Anambra State, resurfaced on Monday at the political debate for three of the governorship candidates in the South-east state.
Charles Soludo, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), said at the debate that Andy Uba “was at the engine room stoking up all the fires” for Mr Ngige’s abduction, an accusation Mr Uba strongly denied.
“I wasn’t even in the country when it happened,” Mr Uba said in response to Mr Soludo’s remark.
Mr Uba, a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, appears to be the greatest threat to Mr Soludo’s chances of winning the November 6 election, among all the other 16 candidates, including Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Soludo knows the threat to be real and apparently targeted Mr Uba during the debate in order to diminish the APC candidate and get some of the 2.5 million registered voters not to vote for him.
He also accused Mr Uba of forging his secondary school examination certificate and not speaking up about the pro-Biafra group, IPOB, and its agitation while the APC candidate was a senator for eight years.
During the debate, Mr Soludo arguably floored Mr Uba who appeared quite uninspiring. He also arguably floored the other candidate, Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But candidates’ performance in debates hardly influence election outcomes in Nigeria.
Already, Mr Uba has handed down heavy political blows to Mr Soludo’s APGA by “luring” the deputy governor, a senator, six House of Representatives members and eight House of Assembly members into APC, just a few days to the election.
More people are likely going to dump APGA even on Election Day, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
On Thursday, two days to the election, Governor Obiano’s aide, Tommy Okoli, announced his defection from APGA to PDP.
One newspaper reported that some additional aides, about five of them, also dumped APGA on Thursday.
And here lies one of the obstacles against Mr Soludo – How do you win an election when several of your chieftains are crossing over to other parties in droves with their supporters?
The defection of several politicians from APGA has been attributed to Governor Willie Obiano’s poor performance, especially with the dilapidated roads and lack of basic infrastructure in Anambra, and the desire of many to see the state move away from the control of a “regional party” so that it can “attract support” from the centre (the federal government).
Chike Okoye, a lawyer from Anambra, told PREMIUM TIMES that Saturday’s election would have been a smooth sail for Mr Soludo, a celebrated economist and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, if Governor Obiano had performed well.
“Obiano hasn’t performed (well), the roads are in terrible shape, and many people are complaining. So it’s going to be a hard sell for him to deliver the candidate of APGA,” Mr Okoye said.
“Nobody wants a regional party. What has Anambra gained federally from playing regional politics? APGA is a regional party, it has not gone beyond Anambra State,” he added.
Chris Chikwelu, from Anambra State, had been a foundation member of APGA before he crossed over to PDP, and then to APC. He said he is enthusiastic about Anambra and the whole South-east becoming part of a party that is “truly national”.
“There is no way we as an Igbo nation can benefit from the project called Nigeria if we are not on the table where issues concerning revenue allocation, resource allocation, and some appointments would be discussed. That is why our people this time around, having been in an opposition party for almost 16 years, decided to get into a national political party,” he said.
Anambra has a history of low voter’s turnout. If the situation deteriorates on Election Day because of the militarisation of the state due to the threat of violence, some people believe that this could put Mr Soludo and APGA in a disadvantaged position.
Can PDP candidate Ozigbo spring surprises?
Yes, he can, said the lawyer, Mr Okoye.
“PDP has a very strong following in this state, considering the Peter Obi factor, the predecessor to Obiano.
“Peter Obi has a lot of following and people listen to him, and considering his credentials and his track record in Anambra State, people will solidly vote for any candidate he brings out. And that candidate is Val Ozigbo,” he said.
Apart from the Peter Obi factor, Mr Ozigbo is likely to gain the support from people who are “tired” of Governor Obiano and APGA and also view APC as a party which “oppresses” the South-east.
“Our people regarded the APC as a Fulani party; that was the dummy sold to the people to confuse them,” said the Anambra Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke, who defected recently from APGA to APC.
“If we hate APC because of Buhari, one day he must leave the party, if we negotiate well politically and an Igbo man becomes the president, then will we call it Igbo party?” Mr Okeke said.
Mr Ozigbo, a former CEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), is intelligent, connects well with the youth, and has good communication skills and the ability to quickly turn the shortcomings of APC and APGA into his own advantage, something he did beautifully well at the debate.
Capitalising on the face-off between Mr Soludo and Mr Uba at the debate, Mr Ozigbo said, “I am glad Anambra people are seeing this. These were the PDP of the past, both of them. This is the dysfunctional past we are moving away from. We have a better PDP today.”
Mr Ozigbo’s message to the electorate is that Anambra is broken and needs some fixing, but that APGA and APC cannot be trusted to fix it because the two political parties were part of the problem.
“For me, it’s heart-breaking thinking about my dear state the way it is being characterised. We’ve just observed a minute silence for those who have died, but what are we doing to stop (the killing)? How do we take responsibility? Who is orchestrating this? At the state level we have APGA, at the national level we have APC. To what extent have they done enough to curb this?” Mr Ozigbo said at the debate, in response to Mr Uba’s call for a minute of silence for those killed in Anambra during Biafra agitation.
“It is not enough to observe a minute of silence, we need to do more.
“I believe what Anambra state requires today is a young vibrant CEO who has got the experience both global, national and sub-regional to be able to fix what is wrong with Anambra, we need people who are trendy, modern, (and) classy.
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“I am a child of grace who has done exceptionally well from school days and up to corporate life,” the PDP candidate said.
IPOB’s influence, other issues
IPOB’s announcement that it has cancelled its sit-at-home order and that the election could go ahead came as a big relief for Nigerians, but there are concerns that several voters may still be reluctant to turn out for the election.
On Friday, on the eve of the election, major roads in Awka and other parts of the state were deserted, an indication that there may be low voter’s turnout despite IPOB’s announcement.
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, spoke on Thursday about the security threat in the state, and noted that there is “a high likelihood of infiltration by criminally-minded individuals to Anambra State, before, during and after the polls.”
The police have deployed 34,000 officers for the election. This is in addition to the many soldiers deployed to the state because of IPOB.
Aside from security issues, it is likely that some influential members of IPOB may want to influence who becomes the next governor of Anambra, whether openly or covertly.
In all of this, the election would determine the fate of APGA as a political party and also whether the people of Anambra would want to join the two dominant parties in Nigeria – APC and PDP.
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